Privatisation is good*

Or so says Cameron O’Reilly, Executive Director of the Energy Retailers Association of Australia:

As a reward for his efforts in the field, O’Reilly received the 2008 Fulbright Professional Australia-U.S. Alliance Studies Scholarship sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (Oddly, in 2004, another Cameron O’Reilly paid an estimated $250 million to become the world’s largest producer of electricity meters.)

Contrary to the ’emotive debate driven by unions’, O’Reilly claims that the privatisation of electricity in NSW will be a boon to (domestic) consumers — formerly known as ‘citizens’ — just as it’s been in Victoria. Sherrill Nixon (There’s a price to pay for power sell-off, The Age, April 26, 2008) certainly agrees; others, such as Kenneth Davidson (Victoria and SA: private power’s “shining lights”, The Age, September 14, 2002) aren’t quite so sure.

See : for more information. Also :

    1) Damien Cahill and Sharon Beder, ‘Regulating the power shift: the state, capital and electricity privatisation in Australia’, Journal of Australian Political Economy, 55, June 2005, pp. 5-22:


    This article examines the process of electricity privatisation in Australia in order to identify the dynamics of neo-liberalism in practice. It is argued that neo-liberalism is best understood as a particular mode of regulation in which the state legislates to secure freedoms for capital. In the case of electricity privatisation the main beneficiaries have been corporations rather than consumers and this has been facilitated by a whole host of new state regulations.

    2) Damien Cahill and Sharon Beder, ‘Neo-liberal think tanks and neo-liberal restructuring: Learning the lessons from Project Victoria and the privatisation of Victoria’s electricity industry’, Social Alternatives 24(1), 2005, pp. 43-8:


    In 1990, neo-liberal think tanks the Institute of Public Affairs and the Tasman Institute collaborated with 13 employer associations to form ‘Project Victoria’ – a venture which outlined a neo-liberal agenda for the incoming Victorian (Coalition) Government. This article analyses Project Victoria and the privatisation of Victoria’s electricity industry as a case study of the impact of neo-liberal think tanks. The analysis of Project Victoria highlights three main aspects of the impact of neo-liberal think tanks in contemporary Australia. First, neo-liberal think tanks are inextricably bound to the interests of business. Second, neo-liberal think tanks provide a broad framework within which sympathetic governments can convert the sectional interests of business and elites into policy and rhetoric. Third, the think tanks play an important role as shock troops for neo-liberalism.

    More generally, see Sharon Beder’s articles on ‘Electricity Privatisation and Deregulation’.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2021 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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7 Responses to Privatisation is good*

  1. no says:

    “Citizens?” Give me a break you don’t give a fuck about citizens or their problems.

  2. dj says:

    I think they mean the Citizen’s Electoral Council…

    Let’s build giant, ecologically insensitive engineering projects that won’t fix the problem we’re supposedly trying to address!!! The Queen of England runs a giant international drug cartel!!!

  3. THR says:

    The right wing of the ALP have colloborated nicely with the media this week on this issue. Keating and former NSW treasurer, Egan, have both written articles lambasting anyone with the audacity to oppose the privatisation.

  4. @ndy says:

    dj: ah yes. The CEC, of course. But I care deeply about their problems, especially their ding-dong electoral battles with the Socialist Alliance. At present, they only appear to be outpolling SA in WA!

    Btw, did you know that the Q of E opened Parliament?


    THR: Yeah, I read Keating’s piece. I haven’t read anything by him addressing Beder’s scholarship though, ho ho ho. As for the ‘left’, Bob Gould reckons that 28 NSW caucus members are privately opposed to the sale, in addition to most of the affiliated unions and membership. The only problem is this doesn’t translate into the ability to shift policy, it seems. Combined with the support of Federal Labor for the sell-off, it would therefore appear likely that only industrial action would halt the sale, and given the general reluctance of unions to engage in such activity, it looks like fat profits for the corporates.

  5. @ndy says:

    Who runs the country?
    Michael Egan
    The Australian
    May 9, 2008

    THERE is a lot more at stake in Morris Iemma’s battle with union bosses than the future ownership of the power industry and how to best use limited public resources for the public’s benefit.

    Also at stake is the future of Labor governments, federal and state. That may sound alarmist, given that Labor governs in every Australian jurisdiction. But not one of these nine Labor governments would have been elected if voters had really believed that they could be dictated to by outside forces, whether trade unions or party conferences.

    Does anyone really believe that Labor would have won any recent election if Kevin Rudd, Iemma or any of the other Labor premiers had gone to the people saying, “Elect me and I’ll do whatever the unions or the party conference tells me”?

    Of course not.

    At the federal election last year, John Howard claimed that a Labor government would be run by the unions. Howard’s defeat seems to have convinced John Robertson and Bernie Riordan, the two union officials trying to stand over Iemma, that the public was comfortable with this.

    No. The voters simply didn’t believe it. The public has seen enough of Labor governments to know that those governments will always get their way in a fight with the extra-parliamentary party or with truculent affiliated unions that would like to use the Labor Party as their very own protection racket.

    We saw it in June 2001 when Unions NSW, again spearheaded by Riordan and Robertson, tried to blockade the parliament to defeat the Carr government’s reform of workers compensation, which has successfully reduced premiums and improved benefits to injured workers. The public saw that the Carr government was prepared to stand up to them and was capable of winning the day.

    Likewise with all the battles the Hawke and Keating governments had to fight to modernise and internationalise the Australian economy.

    On almost every critical issue, theyhad to overcome huge opposition from within the party and from many unions.

    These battles, always time-consuming and difficult, at least made it clear to the public that the governments they elected were their own masters, not puppets.

    Riordan and Robertson, however, are hell-bent on changing all that, backed by the argument that decisions of Labor conferences are binding on Labor governments and parliamentarians. But every realist has always known that the binding power of conferences has nearly always been a complete fiction.

    It’s a fiction that has generally served some useful purpose, if only because it has required Labor leaders to try to educate the party membership about the realities of governing. But when the fiction becomes a reality, as it did in Queensland in the 1950s or in Victoria and federally in the ’60s, Labor is unelectable.

    I’m old enough to remember the devastating effect of Robert Menzies’ charge in 1963 that federal Labor was run not by its parliamentary leaders and members but by the unelected “36 faceless men”.

    Riordan and Robertson have forgotten this lesson, if ever they understood it. They, and every other Labor loyalist, must understand that you can have Labor conferences dictating what Labor parliamentarians may and may not do or you can have Labor governments. But history proves you cannot have both.

    There is another aspect of this stoush that concerns me greatly. Robertson, as head of Unions NSW, and Riordan as president of the NSW party, are the ex officio leaders of the Centre Unity group, otherwise known as the NSW Right.

    For more than a half century this group has been the ballast of the Labor Party, not just in NSW but nationally. Its traditional mission has been to make sure that Labor is always fit and ready to govern. It’s the faction that has traditionally supported the parliamentary leadership in making the difficult decisions that are part and parcel of good government.

    Until now, Centre Unity has seen its role as ensuring that Labor always remains a mainstream party of government rather than a political irrelevancy driven by way-out ideology, a mad rush of blood to the head or lazy, cheer-seeking nostalgia.

    Whether they are aware of it or not, Robertson and Riordan have jettisoned this tradition and set themselves up as the champions of a return to the Labor populism of the ’60s.

    Their commitment to public ownership may well be genuinely held. But they are also clever politicians who know that it’s easier to arouse the passions of the Labor Party faithful by defending the dogmas of old rather than challenging their continued relevance.

    Public ownership of power is one of these dogmas. It is held to be self-evidently good, a view that is still held only in Cuba, North Korea and, it seems, Venezuela.

    They forget that for a pragmatic rather than an ideological party such as Labor, public ownership has never been a goal in itself. It has only been a means to an end. There is no doubt that the nationalisation of power supplies in the ’40s and ’50s made sense. Private companies in those days were unable to access the huge amounts of capital needed to provide electricity to fast-growing suburbs or supply the needs of modern industry.

    And even if they had been, it’s unlikely we would have had the regulatory systems to ensure competition or protect the public from private ownership of the natural monopoly elements of industry.

    But neither of these impediments exist now. Thanks to the joint initiative of the Keating government and various state governments, we have a functioning national electricity market where real competition exists in retail and generation and strong regulation is in place to moderate the monopoly elements of transmission and distribution.

    It simply makes no sense for governments to tie up huge amounts of scarce capital in an activity that the private sector can perform just as well, if not better, when there is a clear need for new public investment in areas such as education, health and public transport. These matters, of course, are not just a concern of the NSW Government. Their outcome will affect how Labor is able to govern across the nation and, of course, whether it is electable in the first place.

    That’s why the Prime Minister and all the premiers have a vital interest and, I am confident, will put on the gloves if needed. Riordan and Robertson will have no chance.

    Michael Egan was NSW’s longest serving treasurer, from 1995 to 2005. He has been a member of the ALP for 44 years and a member of the Centre Unity group since its inception in 1979.

  6. dj says:

    Who needs precocious children (aka us ‘infantile leftists’) when the Emperor is actually drawing to everyone’s attention the fact that he has no clothes on.

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